To be fair, most of my travels are beer travels. But last weekend I went to Victoria, British Columbia for a change of pace. I got there via ferry (how fun!) and let me tell you this: Victoria is far more like a small English city than it is like Seattle, but good lord they have amazing microbrews. And that, my friends, seems to be a Northwest trend.
I pretty much spent the one day I had in Victoria trying all of the microbrews I could find. It was sort of an accident, considering I didn’t expect a freaking ISLAND to have 10 microbreweries on it, all of which seemed to out-do my favorite Seattle beers. I was a little upset, to be honest. But also hella excited. Because I LOVE BEER.
The first beer I had was a Honey Brown Lager (in Chinatown…but whatever). Unfortunately, the HBL is not actually from Victoria, so it’s kind of a moot point, but it was delicious and I had to mention it. [Kamloops Brewery is from British Columbia, though, so that’s cool I guess.]
The second was called Blue Buck Ale from Phillips Brewing in Victoria. It was a wonderfully refreshing beverage that I enjoyed by the water overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountain range across the way in AMERICA. Yeah, that’s right. I drank Canadian beer while staring at America. What are you going to do about it, huh?
No, but seriously, it was delicious. Like, so much so that I almost had a second one. But then I realized I was about to walk half a mile out over open water on a rock wall with no handrails and decided I would rather be sober for that experience. (It was pretty cool.)
After a lovely walk around the park along the water, I found a fish and chips place by the pier and had yet another beer. Vancouver Island Lager might actually be the best beer to drink with fish and chips that I have ever had. It was the perfect accompaniment to fried battered food: smooth, flavorful, incredibly refreshing and served cold. Perfect.
At that moment, after walking nearly 10 miles and eating and drinking all day, I wasn’t sure I could make through the nightlife scene (and let me tell you, Victoria has a serious nightlife). But I determined that I needed to try, if not for my own social benefit, then for the fact that I hadn’t tried enough of the amazing beers yet. I must not give up!
I picked a bar at random, mostly because they were offering free live music. I figured if I was going to spend an evening alone in a bar, I might as well pretend to be there for a reason. After half an hour in Irish Times Pub, I’m pretty sure I could not have picked a better spot if I had tried.
I started the night with the Driftwood Ale (Driftwood Brewery), which was surprisingly good for being the sort of run-of-the-mill ale you find at many breweries. I took my time sipping and people-watched like mad. Then a couple guys in their mid-50s sat down next to me and ordered two rounds of Irish Car Bombs in a row. At my surprised and skeptical look, one turned to me and said, “Hell, this guy can’t drink worth a damn.” (To be fair, his “chugging” of the drink could hardly be called chugging…)
And that’s how I met some random dude from the eastern part of Canada. We discussed beer, traveling Europe, work (he knows what Ultimate Frisbee is!), and commented on the live music. It was lovely.
At that point, he left, and I decided to begin round two. Vancouver Island Brewing was already sitting high on my list (that lager was delicious), but they have now become my #1 favorite Canadian brewery. Hermann’s Dark Lager is one of the best beers I have had…ever. It was the color of Guinness, but had a refreshing, sweet, malty taste to it that I’ve really never experienced in any beer before.
I think I must have made some sort of verbal exclamation on taking the first sip, because the new mustachioed man next to me (his name was Harry) asked me if my Guinness was good. I said it wasn’t Guinness but sort of let it lie because I didn’t feel like arguing. He was drinking some cheap shitty stuff that I didn’t recognize, and he started talking on and on about visiting Victoria and how all the bars are overpriced. I asked where he was from, and found out he was from somewhere straight north, pretty close to Alaska. (Hence the AMAZING accent he had.) He was here working in the shipyards.
I was pretty ready to head home at that point, but Harry wouldn’t let me and insisted on buying me another beer. And so, I got to have a second round of the incredible dark lager. Definitely not a bad thing, but man that stuff was strong. While drinking, I thought at length about how beer brings us all together, and got pretty excited about all the people I was meeting. But that commentary is for another time.
For now, I’ll end with this:
[Next time on Christina’s Beer Adventures: Fremont Oktoberfest! More beer!]